Cloud / April 4, 2023

Women in Tech and in the Cloud

This is a transcript of Episode 15: Women in Tech and in the Cloud from our podcast series “Navigating the Cloud Journey.”

In the episode, Jim welcomes back Head of Software Innovation at Veloce Energy, Arila Barnes. Arila has extensive experience in enterprise software and product management. She is an expert in edge computing and IoT solutions. 

Jim and Arila discuss how the cloud has impacted women in tech and how to foster more diversity in the tech industry.

Here are a few takeaways from the conversation with Arila. You can listen to the full podcast below.

Jim Mandelbaum: How has the cloud impacted women in tech?

Arila Barnes: Well, cloud offers many opportunities for women. One is the cloud technology of Software as a Service that that it enables. So as a small entrepreneur, a lot of women can take advantage of cloud-based software. So that is widely available and has grown big time, especially for small mom and pop shops. I have a friend who launched her business, Strong Style Coffee. She’s leveraging cloud software like Instagram, Square for payments, and so forth to curate her audience, to keep in touch with her customers, and to grow her business. So that’s one way cloud has advanced women.

Another one is when you’re looking more like a technologist. It has created opportunities to accelerate the technology path because so much of the tech is available, whether it’s certifications, whether it’s cloud services available through the major clouds like Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud Platform. There’s a lot of that content and a lot of free tiers that can be leveraged to upskill yourself or try and prototype, software, and engage in forums on various topics.

Jim: What can women do to try to help them develop and get to the next level?

Arila: So, I would turn that around to say like, what are some of the challenges of career growth that I have personally experienced and learned the hard way.

And would like to share and pay it forward. I think one thing that I missed is focus on value. So, if we just focus on the value and reflect on the value that we bring to a company as a resource, right? And what that is. And reflect on that value and extrapolate what that means for our personal development and for our career advancement. So, kind of level set at the beginning of whatever engagement we add and confirm that value and then build around it. So, at work that will look like: Set the goals and objectives for the upcoming year against which to track your performance and achievements.

At home is to negotiate depending on your life stage, what is needed from your partner at home or other activities that you have, whether it’s pet care or elder care, or childcare, all those things, and in your community as well. Sometimes your career goals or the value that you bring is not just what you bring to your day-to-day job. A lot of women are heavily involved in Parent Teacher Associations, HOA associations, or their local government or other volunteer organizations. So that is value they bring as well. And those are also opportunities to practice and grow skills that might not be readily available in your primary job.

Jim: What can men stop doing AND start doing to help?

Arila: Please don’t stop having conversations like this with women Jim, I think this is a great idea making room for women at the table. So, I would say one thing is stop excluding women from strategic conversations just because they happen to be invisible or busy making things run. So that’s another blind spot for most women is staying focused on making sure things are running and are done and shying away from visibility opportunity.

Jim: Okay. Now turning that around, what can we start doing to try to enable women in the workplace and making them more successful? I know obviously getting out of our own way, but what can we start doing to help?

Arila: One key point for anybody’s career development is finding mentors, sponsors, and coaches. So, stepping up as a mentor or stepping up as a coach, and most importantly as a sponsor to the women in your organization or people that identify as women, it’s a great step forward. And just to kind of, give a brief example what the difference is: Mentoring is more like getting somebody up to speed in an area of expertise. So that is how to get better at your current job or your current task. Coaching is more like guide a person, provide guidance and kind of hear how people plan to navigate where they want to get next, and provide feedback as needed. And the sponsor is actually creating opportunity to leverage the benefits of mentoring and coaching to actually be able to apply or guide to apply to move forward to the next level. And sponsors are hard to find.

Jim: That was gonna be a question. How, how do you find a sponsor? How do you become a sponsor?

Arila: I, I don’t know. It’s been kind of hard, like usually when I have asked for sponsors, I have ended up with coaches or mentors. And when I didn’t ask for sponsors, I ended up with one. And I just would like to say sponsors are the people that like to take a risk on you. So those are the people that like, okay, you know, there’s an opportunity to break the Bro network. I’m not gonna bring somebody that I have worked with before and have trusted before. Let me see if I can build a new relationship and a new opportunity for a brand new person in at a strategic level in the organization.

So, it is a risk on both sides and it’s not going to be a hundred percent success. You might get burnt on the way, but just opening the door, taking that risk and seeing it through no matter what the end result is very important.

Jim: What can companies do to attract more diversity in their tech hires?

Arila: What companies can do to attract more diversity is to have a program for diversity and inclusion and, kind of have a holistic approach. What that means from an organization point of view, from a succession point of view, from a performance view, and from talent view. And have a strategy around how to reduce unconscious bias in that space and be more proactive. What I’ve noticed is I’ve been on both sides applying for jobs, and it’s always been like, well, I don’t really have all these qualifications; I only have half of them. And you have heard about that bias towards women. Like if I don’t have the entire list as a perfectionist, I’m not going to even try. So, there’s a bias as a woman to, to fight it and say, Hey, I’ll bring my value on the things that I do know and bring my curiosity and learning expertise for the things that I don’t know.

The other way is from companies to be aware of that bias, right? And be a little lenient towards female applicants.

This is not the same as affirmative action. It’s just because there’s so few. It’s not like if we have 90 percent of the applications of women and 10% men, right? Just like trying to address all 90 percent is not the case. It’s when you’re trying to get three candidates and you only have like, one, and it looks like it’s not qualified. Maybe it needs a second look and kind of read between the lines.

On the non-binary situation. What I like about that conversation is that it brings focus on the challenges of being female in the workspace which, especially in male dominated industries. It also brings awareness to the different ways of self-expression. So, I think it brings more humanity, more of our human self to the workspace as well. So we are not just robots there to fit a certain uniform, a certain standard in order to bring value. It’s like I’m bringing my skills and I’m bringing my full self to work. And I really appreciate people like that because they have made me aware that I don’t have to play down my femininity to fit in with men. Right? To bring myself, of course in a professional context, right? But still, that’s not to be removing or conforming, trying to be strictly conforming to a particular norm, but kind of open the conversation for the flexibility of appreciating different styles of self-expression and different approaches.

Jim: If you had an opportunity to speak directly to the males listening to this podcast right now, if you ask them one thing right now, what would you ask of them?

Arila: I would say don’t give up. There’s more and more of us. Look for opportunity to lead, not just in enterprises but also nonprofit organizations. And there’s multiple paths to success.

Jim: Wonderful. Well, thank you very much for being my guest today. This has been a different kind of podcast. Hopefully, people will listen to this and take it to heart, and hopefully, if we change one person’s life, I’d call it a win.

So, thank you again, and thank you everybody, and I’ll see you on the next journey to the cloud.

Arila: Thank you, Jim.


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